Review: Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

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Publication: May 17th 2016
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Pages:  384 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Fantasy
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤

Once again, Brenna Yovanoff has the uncanny ability of writing a book which crawls right inside my skull.

Like with my review of her other novel, Paper Valentine, it’s hard to know where to begin. Yovanoff’s novels always cover a lot of ground from characterization, setting, to flawlessly meshing genres into a perfect amalgam. 

I guess if I’m to start anywhere, it would be with Waverly. She’s smart, she’s calculated, she’s cold, and she’s human. I haven’t read a YA protagonist like her, and like Hannah in Paper Valentine I love Waverly. I preferred Waverly’s perspective over Marshall’s, not that his chapters were boring or dull but I just loved how Waverly saw things. She’s analytical and studies people and her situation at the top (or near top) of high school hierarchy so she knows how to appear to the classmates around her. For a good portion of the novel, Waverly believes she is a cold, robotic, sociopath who doesn’t care for or about other people, but she only believes this because that is what her best friend Maribeth told her she is, and I love that Yovanoff chose to talk about this.

When I was in high school, I was apart of a friend group that liked heavy metal music, disliked Disney movies, and made fun of my love of musical theatre. For anyone who knows me, I love Disney movies, musical theatre, and the occasional heavy metal song, but because my group of friends disliked some of the things I enjoyed, I told myself I didn’t like the things I used to like so that I could fit in better. Near graduation, when I knew the friendship probably wouldn’t last to university, I started to reconcile with myself and my hobbies. I let myself be excited for new Disney movies, I talked (and sang) about my favourite musicals, and did enjoyed and remembered all the other parts of myself that I had hidden during high school.

Waverly’s experience was a little similar to mine in high school, and I loved watching Waverly begin to discover who she was, and her confliction over whether or not it would be worth being her true self and being alone, or being a version of herself others want her to be and to have friends. It’s such an important lesson for teenagers, and really anyone. It’s easy to lose yourself in the version of what someone wants you to be and is much harder to be who you really are.

I enjoyed Marshall’s perspective as well, because Yovanoff always manages to surprise me. I always tend to judge the male characters in Yovanoff’s work. First it was Finny, the seemingly bad boy minor criminal, and now it was Marshall the seemingly junkie failure. I always look at what these characters do, and the little things like shoplifting and pot smoking and judge them right away, but Yovanoff always manages to peel that layer of judgement away and show that ever though these characters do those things, they are people, and people’s feelings and experiences deserve to be recognized. Marshall was not the character I expected of him to be from his first introduction, and I love that Yovanoff always manages to get me to stop and think about why I’ve judged a character that way, and to rethink them.

I also really enjoyed Amber’s character. I don’t know if I’d ever want a friend like Amber in real-life, since her honesty and wild side seems too much for an introvert like me, but she seems like a fun person to go through life with.

While the dream travelling was a bit weird, it’s exactly what I expect from a Yovanoff novel. Magic happens, it helps characters and brings them together, and then it disappears when it’s no longer needed. I like to think of magic in that way, and it’s one of the reasons I consider Yovanoff to be one of the top Magical Realist writers of our time.

Brenna Yovanoff, you have easily made it on my list of all time favourite authors. I can’t wait to discover more of your work, and to read the stories you have to write in the future.

Also, kudos to Yovanoff for creating weird character names that work. It’s a talent of hers that I’m also trying to perfect.

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